27 August 1998
(Fourteen count criminal complaint unsealed in New York) (840) By Peter Sawchyn USIA Staff Writer Washington -- U.S. authorities have formally charged one of two suspects in the U.S. embassy compound bombing in Nairobi, Kenya, with murder for the deaths of 12 Americans killed in the blast early this month. Speaking at a press briefing August 27 at the Justice Department, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh and Attorney General Janet Reno said a 14 count criminal complaint against Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali had been filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. In addition to the murder charges, Freeh said the complaint also charges the defendant with conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the bombing that killed over 250 people, most of whom were Kenyans. If convicted, the defendant faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death. Also present at the briefing were Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, and senior officials from the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies in Washington -- Ambassador Samson Kipkoech Chemai of Kenya, represented by Colonel Maurice Otieno Oyugi, and Ambassador Mustafa Salim Nyang'anyi of Tanzania. Prior to outlining details of the criminal complaint, Freeh first thanked Kenya and Tanzania for their help in apprehending Al-Owahli [a second suspect, Mohammed Saddi Odeh, has been named]. "I would like to express special gratitude on behalf of the FBI and all American law enforcement for the extraordinary cooperation, assistance and professionalism of the Kenyan and Tanzanian law enforcement officials," Freeh said. "Seldom has such an international effort been so productive so quickly." Freeh said the defendant, a native of Yemen also known as Khalid Salim, was first contacted by Kenyan officials on August 9, two days after the bombing. He was subsequently arrested by Kenyan authorities and questioned twice by FBI Special Agents who brought the defendant from Kenya to New York City. Freeh said Al-Owahli waived all of his legal rights to an attorney and told agents he "trained in a number of camps in Afghanistan, including camps affiliated with al Qaeda, an international terrorist group led by Usama bin Ladin dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence." The defendant also told authorities he was trained in explosives, hijacking and kidnapping, and admitted to attending meetings and a press conference with bin Ladin, and was aware of bin Ladin's "fatwah" or edict to kill Americans. According to the criminal complaint, Al-Owhali is believed to have arrived in Nairobi from Lahore, Pakistan, on July 31. On the day of the bombing, together with a co-conspirator, he drove a truck containing explosives to the U.S. embassy. Once there, he tossed a grenade at the guard station near the embassy. The defendant, who sustained minor injuries in the blast, also told FBI agents he did not expect to survive the bombing and believed he would die as a "martyr." In her brief remarks, Attorney General Reno thanked Albright, Berger, Secretary of Defense Cohen and other federal agencies, including the CIA, for their cooperation and help in the investigation and apprehension of the perpetrator. Reno also praised the tireless efforts of the more than 450 men and women of the Justice Department and FBI for "their excellent work, thousands of hours, and great personal sacrifice" that they have devoted to the investigation. "The message of these charges, and the extraordinary cooperation that led to them is clear," U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said. "The United States and the world community will not tolerate the crimes and devastation of international terrorism. And law enforcement will do everything in its power to identify, apprehend and bring to justice every single person involved in these horrific and cowardly bombings." Echoing those sentiments, Secretary Albright said she was pleased to be present at what she described as a "very welcome announcement." "Terrorists should understand that America will use every available diplomatic, judicial, economic, and when necessary, military tool to protect our people. We will not be intimidated by terror," Albright said. "We will not shrink from our responsibilities, and we are determined, that sooner or later, one way or another, terrorists will be held accountable for their crimes." Although the initial arrest is an indication of substantial progress made in the 20 days since the bombing in Kenya, both Freeh and White emphasized that the investigation is continuing. "We are still in the initial stages of a far-reaching international investigation," Freeh said. "I stress that the charges against the defendant are at this point only charges, that there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and that all of his legal and constitutional rights will be fully protected. The rule of law is being upheld completely by both the United States and Kenya."